We Indians Need To Learn How To Be More Compassionate

I had a hard time writing about this topic: compassion. I just wasn’t sure what I could write about. I wasn’t even sure if I knew anything about this topic at all. I even looked up what compassion means so I could figure out what to write about. The problem is I tend to be more empathetic and can see that more clearly. But Webster’s said that empathy was not the same as compassion.

So, 3 days after the deadline, I finally realized what I could write about.

I’m a South Asian Indian born and raised in America. I come from a background where we tend to judge each other quicker than we show compassion. If something doesn’t go right or something bad happens, it somehow had to be that person’s fault. They did something that caused that bad thing to happen. I had a friend once tell me that when she told her mother about her miscarriage, her mother’s first words to her were “What did you do?”.

We, as a community, also don’t speak about so much that is happening around us. Things that require compassion are being hidden and causing emotional havoc in our lives, things like broken engagements, broken marriages, emotional abuse, physical abuse, miscarriages, infertility, depression, suicidal thoughts.

It upsets me that these are things that so many of us have gone through but yet, we still worry about telling the person next to us in fear that they will judge us. We aren’t able to share what we have really been through.

I have personally been through a few of these things. When I had, I completely disappeared from our community’s social scene. The only time I felt I deserved to be back in it is when I had done something indisputably good to make up for a few of the “bad” things I had done or been through. I couldn’t hold my head up around them until I had finally achieved something that our community could be proud of and say “Yes, I know that woman”.

Why should I feel ashamed for my circumstances in life? Why should I feel like everyone is talking about me behind my back? Why should I have to worry about being judged for making decisions to make my life better?

So my call is to the South Asian Indian community today. Be compassionate. Stop letting others feel like they will be judged for going through hard times in life. Not a single one of us is better than another. We will be stronger as a community if we help each other instead of tearing each other down. Share what you personally have gone through because I can guarantee you that the person next to you has gone through something that’s been life changing and difficult as well.

I was inspired to write this by #1000Speak. Compassion is something that I believe in but don’t see often enough.

Check out the other stories of compassion.

11 thoughts on “We Indians Need To Learn How To Be More Compassionate

  1. nidhisapra says:

    Having grown up in India, I was only vaguely aware that growth and confidence are a direct byproduct of a compassionate society. India is shackled by this mindset despite immense potential among its people. I also see a similar trend in Indian communities here which is in a stark contrast to some other ethnic groups. I think you have done a great job in articulating this call to be compassionate.

    • Shailee Butalia says:

      I guess the question is how can we stop assuming and judging and start understanding and being more compassionate. It is a big change in thought that we have to make as an individual and as a community.

    • Shailee Butalia says:

      I hope so. I read something that mentioned the newer generation is more tolerant because a lot of these changes are the norm for them. I really hope that I can teach my children to see everyone with equal eyes no matter what.

  2. Yvonne says:

    I found your post very interesting because as a westerner (British) I had an idealised belief that Indians were more compassionate than us! This belief partly came about because I’ve been meditating (on and off) for several years and have read about non-duality, and many of the “masters” come from India. But I guess the truth is that wherever we are in the world there is judgement and a need for more compassion. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Shailee Butalia says:

      Yvonne, you’re right in a sense. I feel as though we act very welcoming and compassionate, especially with ethnicities outside our own. I also believe we judge almost everyone for their situation or circumstance in life which isn’t right. This is a big generalization but I think a lot of what indian also do is fake. It’s acting for people looking in. It’s for society so they say we are good and nice. We, as a group, need to become more real and more tolerant.

  3. lrconsiderer says:

    Okay I getcha, but here’s the thing (as I understand it, and please correct me if you think I’m wrong) – isn’t it inherent within us, and perhaps in India as a culture, I’m not sure, but it would make sense, to try to rationalise the awful things which happen?

    There are terrible things which are CLEARLY because of direct consequences of a person’s actions, and the fact that they did something which caused or allowed something horrible, and hopefully we call those people criminals and put them in jail, or else try to encourage them to find remorse within themselves and seek to make reparations…


    For the awful things which just…happen…then what?

    I feel as though by blaming the person to whom they happen (see ‘Karma’), a culture of fear is generated and bought into whereby individuals are somehow responsible for their own misery, because then it’s less scary (or more rationalisable) than a world where women miscarry their wanted children, tidal waves wipe out villages, and a worm can live parasitically inside the eye of a child and render it blind.

    The OTHER ‘advantage’ of this fear culture is that it releases us from helping – if it was their FAULT, then they SHOULD suffer the consequences and that requires nothing from me, in my smugness and judgement – I am freed from any obligation to help/make effort on their behalf.

    GREAT post. You sent me on a huge train of thought.

    • Shailee Butalia says:

      A lot of the Indian culture functions so that if anyone looks at us and our family, we look perfect at any given point. I know that it’s the same in a lot of cultures but I think what we specifically lack as a society is our willingness to accept the imperfections as acceptable or normal. For example, when I was growing up, it was assumed that my generation would still marry within our own culture, our own religion. Anyone outside was unacceptable. It would “look” bad. Luckily, interracial and inter-religion marriages are becoming more commonplace now. Something like divorce is still making its way to be acceptable. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to have told me that they have been divorced but tell me like it’s a secret. All for the fear of being judged. But why should we be judged for going through something that doesn’t necessarily make us a bad person? Why should we even be scared of being judged?

      I think what you said about the other advantage is also right on. We don’t need to show you compassion for going through something that’s your fault.

      My whole blog was started and dedicated to helping our society realize there is so much we all go through but don’t talk about. I want to help open dialogue between people so they realize that no one is ever alone. My cover page quote is actually “You’re not the only one who thinks it.” Compassion is just one of the things that I think we all need to work on.

      • lrconsiderer says:

        That’s a brilliant motivation for having a blog. Really cool idea. I’m glad you’re writing into it, especially if Indian culture is as tricksy as you say, to navigate socially.

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